To know how to play the game is necessary, but aloneJay Moore is the author of The Most Powerful Blackjack Manual: A Complete Guide for Both Beginners and Experienced Players. In the manual, Jay demonstrates how to become a part of the less than 5% of players who leave the casino as winners, and have fun doing it. Jay is an accomplished math teacher and architect, who has played winning blackjack for over 25 years. Jay's website is www.blackjackmanual.com is not enough to belong to the winners. But, not even knowing how to play the game? Or even worse, not knowing the basic rules of blackjack? Here is one of the “best” examples (it happened to me many years ago):
- “Can I split them?”
- “You can, but it’s not recommended.”
- “ OK I still want to split them.” – and tries to separate his two red chips.
- “You can not do that, you have to put up another 10 dollars.”
Thereafter, the player places two more red chips on top of his original bet.
“Our hero” not only showed that he has no knowledge about how to play he game (never split tens), but he showed that he doesn’t even know the basic rules of the game. (If you split a pair, you have to put an even amount of money separately next to your original bet – and don’t forget – you’re not allowed to touch the cards if they are dealt from a shoe.)
To know how to play the game means you have to make decisions during the game. You have to decide when to: Stand? Hit? Double? Split? Take Insurance? All of the “decisions” that we have to make are written in the Basic Strategy chart.
The “basic strategy” is nothing more than a simple set of rules that tell the player when to stand or draw, when to double down, and when to split the pair. It tells us the playing decisions that we have to make to improve our chances of winning. The Basic Strategy does not usually make a winning hand from a losing hand. It only allows you to lose less.
The Basic Strategy therefore is nothing more than a set of rules that help determine when and what decision to make. If we learn these, then basically we don’t even have to decide — we just have to employ the correct decision at the right place (which is written).
These decisions cannot be based on our feelings. Here is an example why:
Have you ever seen a player sitting on 16 against the dealer 7 (or higher) and rather than hitting the hand without hesitation, he starts to “count and combine” how many small cards have come out and makes a “conclusion”: a face card is due. Worrying about busting, he waves the hand and stands on 16 against the dealer’s 7. Most of the time the dealer will make his hand and this poor guy will lose his bet. It doesn’t matter how many times the same thing will happen to him, he will keep trying again and again. He tries to figure out the next card. But, there is no such thing as guessing the next card. Nobody can do that – never try it. To try to guess the next card is one of the fastest ways to the poorhouse from the casino.
On top of that, this poor guy made the biggest mistake anybody can make at the Blackjack table! When the dealer is in a standing position (upcard: 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, Ace) there is no reason to stand on a stiff total (12-16). We try to “catch” them with hitting. But, the same old question comes up once again: “Why would we risk a hit if we can bust and lose immediately?” Because we have a good chance to lose our bet without even trying to improve our hand. When our two cards are a 9 and a 7 (total of 16) we know it’s a typical losing hand. When I get this hand I feel like a baseball team when they need a grand slam but nobody is on the bases.
What is the correct play? Our player (and a great number of the players) stand on 16. In fact, even at 15 in this case because they are thinking about the possibility of breaking. Let’s look at the possibilities of what kind of card the dealer can turn over on his ten. If the dealer gets a 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A then his hand will be 17 or higher and we lose (with the Ace he has Blackjack).
This is 8 cards out of a possible 13. If I don’t even observe the other 5, I have already lost the fight since we are losers 8 out of 13 cases (which is 61.54%). And then I’m not even taking into consideration what happens if the dealer gets a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. With the drawing of an additional card, the chances that the dealer will beat me are almost 50% yet again.
This is why it’s the biggest mistake in Blackjack to stand below 17 if the dealer’s upcard is a 7 or higher. Please do not stand! Take a chance to improve your hand, and try to make it stronger! If you lose, you lose. At least you can say, “I have tried and did not give up without even attempting to get a better hand.”
It seems to me that lots of players who learn and employ a good Basic Strategy, for some reason, do not follow it in every aspect.
When we have 12 and the dealer shows 2 or 3, the majority of the players don’t know what to play. The 12 is a breaking hand, no question about it, but how many cards can bust us? Only one card: the 10-value card can hurt us – 4 out of 13 (30.8%). The odds are approximately 70% in our favour that the hit will help. On top of that, the dealer does not have the weakest card to hit to. Go for the hit! You will see that this is one of the decisions that will be criticized most of the time by other players at the table. Every time you hit a 12 against a 2 or 3, a significant number of the players will cast a disparaging glance at you. A lot of them don’t understand why you are doing that. Don’t even try to explain. Of course, since there is a chance to bust, sometimes it will happen. When you do bust, do not have any doubts that you made the right decision.
The knowledge of the Basic Strategy itself is not enough to belong to the group of winners. However, if you follow and play by the chart (or as many say, play by the book) you will already be better than the majority of the players who risk their money without sometimes knowing what they’re doing.
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